Ace of Cups (I)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on December 3, 2020

December 3, 2020

Ace of Cups

We began with the protective practice

We then invited the presence of Hermes Trisgmegistus to guide our conversation by reading the Emerald Tablet

After briefly focusing the mantra SHE FEELS on the region of the heart, we moved the second part of the Inner Radiance Sequence (“In purest Love for all the lives radiates the Godhood of my Soul”) and the 11th part of the Grail Knight’s practice, in connection with the 11th Letter of the Divine Alphabet (Kaf) and the 11th Arcanum, Force.

We then read from Revelation 14:1-2

Observing both the King of Swords and the Ace of Cups:

– The Ace of Cups looks very symmetrical at first glance. But then you start to notice inconsistencies with the shading and the patterns on different parts of the cup. Notice the base of the cup—the patterns are slightly different on the three exposed sides of this base. And the shading is only on our left side. 

And then look at the top—there are three exposed panels between the “towers.” They have red ovals in their centres, with black diamonds in the ovals. The one on our left is entirely shaded; the region above it is entirely shaded. Its mirror image on our right side is entirely unshaded; the region above it is only partially shaded. And the panel in the centre is half-shaded, on our right side. 

Also the three radiating circles on the stem—they are red, and each has two concentric black circles inside. Those concentric circles are ever-so-slightly different from one to the other, in terms of how far apart they are. Different ratios, especially on our right side. The lines of the concentric circles in the central one are thin compared to the others. 

So at first, one gets this impression of a very well-organised city or something—then one begins to notice all these subtle nuances.

– And what exactly are those smudges on the right side of the top, on the right-hand most “tower”? Are they watermarks?? Joel thought it was only an imperfection in the printing of his card, but sure enough they are exactly the same on both of our cards. Two smudges, one right below the red pinnacle of the tower and one close to the right-hand blue “fin” or waterfall below the “tower.” Amazing that this is actually an intentional part of the image, it’s so convincing as a stain. 

It makes you think of a watermark on currency or official documentation, for authenticity. And it is a cup, we assume full of liquid, and so a “watermark” is quite fitting.

– It’s interesting, the way that the coins seem to be all around. The radiating circles on the stem. The ovals with diamonds in the centre. The top of the structure, the red circle with the dots in it. That one might be the most coin-like of all. It’s a bit reminiscent of the very centre of the Ace of Coins, but in this case there’s a central point around which all the other points gravitate and arrange themselves. On the Ace of Coins, they black dots are rather scattered—and the centre is yellow, not red. And here, it has risen to the very top of the image, not in the very centre as in the Ace of Coins.

– There are so many 3’s, many collections of 3. Each grouping of the red pinnacles of the towers (the upside-down U shape)

The three water things that are coming out

The three oval coins on the sides of the building

The three sides on both the top and the bottom—at least, three that are exposed to us.

It seems odd to have such an emphasis on 3, when this is the Ace—but, then again, this is the 3rd Suit.

And the Ace of Swords is fundamentally a division—it’s both a Two and an Ace. This Ace marks the third Suit in the same way the Ace of Swords marked the second.

“Oneness” pervades the Coins. “Polarity” that doesn’t resolve or flow together is what persists in the Swords.

– Where do you see the carrying over or continuation of the Sword? Maybe in this upside-down dagger like form, that hangs below the top “coins”? It’s like a tongue or a leaf shape. Maybe the top part, with the coins, is like an adorned handle or hilt. In a way, this dagger is a miniature of the whole Cup. An upside-down hilt is the entire Cup. The top part of the Cup is a transformation of the round bottom of the hilt that was so prevalent especially in the Ace of Swords. The base of the Cup is a transformation of the handguard. And the red and blue “stem” in the middle is the actual grip of the hilt, where the hand would hold on. 

And so the dagger rests inside the whole of the hilt in a way. 

– Going back to this emphasis on three-foldness…it’s a transformation or a completion of that which was emphasised for more-or-less all of the Court Swords. A threefold human being in the Knave transforming into a three-fold double by the time we get to the Queen…only to be resurrected as a three-fold John in the King. And now this Cup is here with it’s several layers of three-foldness.

It has three main parts overall:

The “city” at the top

The red and blue middle

And the kind of pyramidal base

– You almost get the impression that the Coin in the Ace was split into Crown and Sword in the Ace of Swords, and now it has been repaired…but not the way it used to be. It’s like the Sword has been turned upside down, and lost its blade, and the bottom of the hilt has reattached to the crown. Has the sword turned inside-out? The crown too has gone through a metamorphosis, it has become a city.

This ties into the King of Swords…perhaps he is this red and blue region in the middle of the Ace of Cups, he has been squished by the weight of the crown above which has become a city, and his throne below has become this pyramidal base. He bears this heavy crown, it crushes him, but at the same time it becomes his fortress, his castle. He bears a heavy burden that becomes his refuge, his fortress, his home.

We’re back to the Magician again—the King of Swords has performed a disappearing act. 

Maybe he’s living in this city.

– It’s also something like the place in an Orthodox Church where the host is kept [edit – it is called the “Tabernacle”]. Kept behind a screen of sorts.

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It’s interesting that we left off with the Mars Sphere in the Court Swords, and the formation of the Resurrection Body (in terms of the Lord’s Prayer through the chakras). Whereas the next sphere/chakra is that of the Sun. Here it isn’t the Resurrection Body (Fish), it is the Physical Body, the Bread. It’s like how Christ becomes the host, the Risen Christ (King of Swords) becomes the host (Ace of Cups). The bread that disappears into this special vessel. And the top-most “coin” almost looks like a wafer—like one that has been dipped in wine.

The red and blue in the centre…water and wine…

We never associated wine with this card before…I mean, we haven’t really spent focused time with it before, but at a glance, there were associations with water, but never wine.

– What about this flesh-coloured section behind the base of the cup? And then the bottom is plain white? It’s very strange…in a way it prefigures the red on the two (see image)

It’s reminiscent of the central panel on the front of the “city” at the top, which is half-shaded in a strange way, you don’t know why. Similarly, the floor is half-colored, and it doesn’t really make sense.

– So, akin to the floor and this front-facing panel being a one-ness prefiguring the two, is the base as threefoldness prefiguring the four. The front panel of the base has embedded triangles, whereas the sides have squares/rectangles. More specifically, the front is all triangles; whereas the panel on our right side has a square above and triangles below, and the panel on our left side is all squares. (This also recalls the panels on the top: the middle one half-shaded, the one on the right all bright, and the one on the left all shaded. This is continued somewhat below, in that the right is unshaded and the left is mostly shaded).

So the Ace of Cups is like One becoming Two, and simultaneously Three becoming Four?

Notice that three sides are shown, and a fourth is implied, on the base and at the top.

– The three discs on the stem…is there a fourth one implied behind them?

The three fish-tails or waterfalls…is there a fourth one on the other side?

– That embedded triangle in the centre of the base…it’s almost like a compartment. It has depth. Reminds one of Anne Catherine Emmerich’s description of the Grail, that it had these compartments in the base where little spoons or silverware could be kept. 

So this triangle is very dimensional, like it’s going into the base. Really, there might be hidden compartments all over this cup. A vessel (which is fundamentally a compartment for some liquid) adorned with all these other compartments and vessels. 

The only thing that has convincing depth, though, is this triangle in the base. The top “city” portion almost looks one-dimensional. It’s doesn’t even look like a cup, really.

– It’s interesting to look at this from the Ace of Coins through the Ace of Swords, as a germinal process of a seed. Like the Coins are the seed, and the Swords are the actual germination process. And now the Ace of Cups is the appearance of the first sprout of the germinated seed. 

Or the Coins as seed, and then the Swords as a gardener watering/planting/bedding. Now it starts to germinate.

Or there is a broader timeline—the Coins are the seed taking root. The Swords are the growth of leaf and stem. And now the Cup is the flowering. Or maybe the Ace of Cups is still a bud, that’s why it’s a bit one-dimensional—it hasn’t yet fully unfurled. And the “fins” or “waterfalls” are the sepal leaves, the calyx, the last leaves to appear before they transform into petals.

– Each of the six red pinnacles has a yellow pearl atop it, with something like a gnome’s hat adorning it. They are shaped like tears or raindrops. Kind of sword-like in their pointiness. 

These towers are a bit like candles. And these are the little flames at the top, like a candelabra.

– The diamond shape in the red ovals is four-sided, another reference to four. Have we seen this form before? As far as we can tell, the only other time they’ve appeared is on the side of the chair of the King of Coins. Yet these are front and centre, whereas the King’s are on the side of his chair, more discreet.

It makes one think of the “insignia” feature on the throne of the King of Swords, or on the saddle cover of the Knight of Swords. The base of the Ace of Cups doesn’t have any insignia, it’s more pure geometrical figures. More decorative perhaps? There’s not a particular resonance with them as of yet.

– Actually, there is an insignia in the Ace of Cups, but it isn’t at the bottom of the image like in the Knight and King of Swords—it’s at the top of the form, as the miniature dagger. Since the form has been turned upside down (the reversal of the hilt), therefore the insignia is now at the top. This miniature dagger has the same role as the image on the saddle of the Knight of Swords, an archetypal reduction or seed of the entire image.

– We’ve gone through yet another shift in orientation. With the entry into the Ace of Swords, our perspective went in two new directions at once—we went upwards, into the Crown, but then there was a kind of turn sideways as we journeyed through the Numbered Swords. What used to be up/sideways for the Swords is now down for the Cups.

– This brings to mind the question of what dimension exactly this Ace of Cup exists in? As opposed to the other two Aces. 

There doesn’t seem to be a spatial quality to this Arcanum at all. Like the Cup isn’t anywhere in particular. Perhaps there is more of a time-dimension at play?

What do we mean here? Like, the perception of the Ace of Cups doesn’t really depend at all on adopting any kind of spatial perspective. For example, one got the feeling that with the Ace of Coins, we had a bird’s-eye view, looking at it from above. And then with the Swords, there is a strong sense of above and below, and the gateway of the hand vs the gateway that is the crown. Of then moving up and entering into the crown. There is a spatial quality to both.

This is more of an unfolding or growth within time itself, outside of or beyond any particular space.

This is expressed in the fact that the other two Aces are essential for adopting the right “perspective” of the Ace of Cups, more so than it was for the Ace of Swords. It didn’t require the Ace of Coins to be situated. And so it’s not so much a “spatial” situating that happens, as it was for the Ace of Coins and Ace of Swords, but instead a “temporal” or developmental situating, needing to see the Ace of Cups as a stage in a process of development. Not in a particular spatial relationship or activity.

To be sure—the Ace of Coins was certainly very illuminating when it was brought into relationship with the Ace of Swords. It eventually unlocked a mystery, it helped to give some context and orientation. 

But here both prior Aces come immediately into play really naturally, like they’re necessary, and come to think of it so does the prior card, the King of Swords. This was not the case with the King of Coins and Ace of Swords at all. There was a sudden break. This too speaks to this being a “time” being, that it’s the organically unfolding sequence from King of Swords to Ace of Cups as well as the organically unfolding sequence from Ace to Ace to Ace that gives us the proper orientation to grasp this image, and not so much how we need to move our spatial perspective in our mind’s eye.

– Does this imply the Plane of Creation, therefore? Above the Plane of Form and the Plane of Action? A realm not dependent on space and materiality like the two lower realms are. Certainly the Plane of Action relies on space and materiality, because that is exactly where it is taking place. But also the Plane of Form relies on having a Plane of Action (materiality) to shape and mold—its meaning is found in its action on the lower plane. But the Plane of Creation is a realm of eternally unfolding/metamorphosing Archetypes. Detached from space and matter.

– Actually, looking through the other Majors, it seems that the diamond shape that is on the King of Coins’ chair is also to be found in the latticework on the garment of Force. We’ve never noticed that before. We bring Force into relationship both with the King of Swords and the Ace of Cups in the sequence with which we’re working. It’s interesting that this latticework on Force’s garment is a bit like sutures, like stitching back together what the Sword has cut. 

– Speaking of Force, and going back into the nature of Sword for a bit, we read from page 277, in which he elaborates the difference between terrestrial electricity and celestial lightning. That this celestial lightning is only necessitated as the Divine, healing response to the terrestrial electricity generated by the fallen beings. This lightning bolt with which the Knave of Swords was struck on the crown, opening him to the Divine. 

And then on page 286, he describes the swords of Michael and the Cherubim who guards Paradise. That swords are the fruits of outer powerlessness, that they are forces due to crucifixion—and yet therefore “powerful arms of true power.” 

The Sword is the mirror image of frustration and resentment that one accrues or endures due to unjust treatment due to freedom—a righteous version of frustration and resentment, purified of a need for vengeance or “eye for an eye.” Those experiences transformed into the protective healing force of the Sword.

It reminds one of Tomberg’s lectures on Christ in his Second Coming at the end of Christ and Sophia, in which it is described how Christ has earned the awakening of the wound that heals, the purifying wound due to what he underwent 2000 years ago. That from bearing the Passion, he can now awaken certain forces in human beings as the karma of bearing that unjust torment—and this awakening begins with it the flush of shame and conscience. 

– The crown and throne of the King of Swords swallowing him up—he diminishes completely—he becomes the pure power of powerlessness. It’s like the Pillar of Salt meets a Crown of Light, or a Crown of Thorns. The Guardian of Freedom suffers fully the abuse of freedom.

Like the terrestrial and celestial lightning meeting each other, and there’s something explosive and intense yet salutary and vivifying and healing. Like the Damascus experience of St Paul.

– In real life, most examples of this kind of experience work in slow motion—it’s more over time, noticing how you were part of those painful moments, and you learn about yourself and grow a bit. It goes back to this being a Time-Being—in the realm of the Archetype it is all there simultaneously, yet in a lower realm it can only unfold over time.

– Suddenly we get this picture of the upside-down dagger at the top of the Cup as a kind of clip holding up a triangular piece of cloth or curtain or veil—was that cloth covering up the cup, lying horizontally over the opening? Or even better—was it like a curtain hanging down vertically, over a stage—and a sudden dimensionality has been added to this image!

Yes, this opens something up! This is an entrance.

There’s no apparent opening to the Cup. Part of why it seems more like a city than a cup, is we can’t really see the bowl of the vessel, the rim or the opening. Until this now. The building sits atop the Cup like it was completely covering it, like a plate or something. 

– The dagger shape could be a head. The blue “fins” on each side could be hands—like a being of sorts. Like some crazy Totem. 

– The open curtain could be the entry to some kind of baptismal chamber—you enter at a more upper level, and then must descend downwards to the actual area where the liquid is stored.

Is there an entrance both at the bottom and at the top? We had this triangular compartment or doorway in the front plate of the pyramidal section on the base. 

Again like Dante traveling through the Inferno and Purgatory, going down through the sub-earthly spheres, and suddenly coming out the surface on the other side, coming out of the top “upside-down” so to speak. 

Maybe the first entrance is at the base, and one has to walk up this winding staircase that proceeds through the stem, up to the “stage” with the curtain at the top. This winding staircase is like the Suit of Swords, this swirling circling that seems to go on forever. And then you come to the top—you enter the performance hall, or the baptismal chamber. 

– With the winding staircase, it suddenly has a resonance as a Lighthouse. Or a castle of lighthouses. 

– It’s almost Cirque de Soleil-like, which is absurd after the horror of the Swords. A magical, playful performance hall. 

– We’re still a bit wary of the shadowy portions of this Cup, questioning whether it’s really all good…but overall, it’s very beautiful and like a “choose your own adventure” type of story—“what do you want it to be? A sacred baptismal chamber, a sacrament? Or a theater? Or a city, a fortress, a lighthouse, etc. etc. etc.?” Nothing seems out of place…

– A dreamy, Paradise realm. Easy, comfortable, safe like the Coins. But still….there is a suspicion now built into us after the experiences of the Swords. An edge…we’ve been burned before! But it looks comfortable and familiar like the Coins…maybe it’s just our current life situations colouring our perception, but maybe there actually is a kind of electrical undercurrent to this Arcanum…something about that shadow…

Maybe this is the shadow side of it being a dreamy Paradise—is there illusion here? Could we get lost in the illusion, the dream?

– The Ace of Coins represents itself.

The Two of Coins prefigures the Ace of Swords, a cutting off of above and below

The Three of Coins prefigures the Ace of Cups, this harmonious arrangement.

And yet the Four is already present within the Three of Coins, as the tiny pearl, the first appearance of the pearl. And so there’s something of the Batons, the Fourth Suit, already chomping at the bit. Like the foundation it rests on is really the realm of the Four—that’s where the Baton was in the King of Swords, hidden in the Throne. Like getting a sneak peek at the Batons…”This remains hidden until you get to the end of the Cups…” 

Maybe it wasn’t only that he was drawing it forth from the place on the throne with the signature…maybe it can also be seen that he is putting it away, placing it in safekeeping until the time is right…Or like a brief revealing of his true/full strength, over and above his Sword: “I’ll save this for later…you don’t want to make me use this!”

We closed with the second stanza of the Foundation Stone Meditation.